The first thing to be done in the making of a lawn is to establish the proper grade. This should be worked out with the greatest care, from the fact that when a lawn is once made, its level and contour should never be changed.
Preparing the ground.
The next important step is to prepare the ground deeply and thoroughly. The permanence of the sod will depend very largely on the fertility and preparation of the soil in the beginning. The soil should be deep and porous, so that the roots will strike far into it, and be enabled thereby to withstand droughts and cold winters. The best means of deepening the soil, as explained in Chapter IV, is by tile-draining; but it can also be accomplished to some extent by the use of the subsoil plow and by trenching. Since the lawn cannot be refitted, however, the subsoil is likely to fall back into a hard-pan in a few years if it has been subsoiled or trenched, whereas a good tile-drain affords a permanent amelioration of the under soil. Soils that are naturally loose and porous may not need this extra attention. In fact, lands that are very loose and sandy may require to be packed or cemented rather than loosened. One of the best means of doing this is to fill them with humus, so that the water will not leach through them rapidly. Nearly all lands that are designed for lawns are greatly benefited by heavy dressings of manure thoroughly worked into them in the beginning, although it is possible to get the ground too rich on the surface at first; it is not necessary that all the added plant-food be immediately available.
The lawn will profit by an annual application of good chemical fertilizer. Ground bone is one of the best materials to apply, at the rate of three hundred to four hundred pounds to the acre. It is usually sown broadcast, early in spring. Dissolved South Carolina rock may be used instead, but the application will need to be heavier if similar results are expected. Yellow and poor grass may often be reinvigorated by an application of two hundred to three hundred pounds to the acre of nitrate of soda. Wood ashes are often good, particularly on soils that tend to be acid. Muriate of potash is not so often used, although it may produce excellent results in some cases. There is no invariable rule. The best plan is for the lawn-maker to try the different treatments on a little piece or corner of the lawn; in this way, he should secure more valuable information than can be got otherwise.
The first operation after draining and grading is the plowing or spading of the surface. If the area is large enough to admit a team, the surface is worked down by means of harrows of various kinds. Afterwards it is leveled by means of shovels and hoes, and finally by garden rakes. The more finely and completely the soil is pulverized, the quicker the lawn may be secured, and the more permanent are the results.